There is something about the onset of Thanksgiving and the holidays (end of year donations perhaps?) that have bloggers and consultants writing feverishly about unique and compelling ways to thank donors. I have recently contributed to the onslaught myself (http://mfgrants.blogspot.com/2011/11/how-to-say-thank-you-in-chinese.html).
But maybe it is time to temporarily shelve the ‘thank you’s’ and give the donors what they really want-ROI.
Why do donors give? To satisfy an internal need, to perpetuate a family culture of giving, to satisfy a pressing need, or any of a thousand different reasons. Giving is a wonderful experience. It releases serotonin in the brain and makes us feel good!
But after the moment of giving and the serotonin has faded donors really want to know that their hard earned, net-income gift has gone to good use. A well-used gift creates pride of ownership and reinforces the donor’s good decision to contribute to your organization. A well-spent gift produces a donor that is an ambassador for your organization making your job easier.
Measurement and evaluation are not nearly as thoughtful as a handwritten card or as sexy as an exclusive invitation-only event, but are critical for donor retention. If a donor feels that his gift has been used well, he will continue to give and can be moved through the ‘pipeline’ to larger gifts and possibly a planned giving strategy or a bequest.
So, how best to consider measurement and evaluation? Every program will have measurements that have unique characteristics however; there are constants from which all organizations can benefit.
Start by making some lists-nothing fancy, just a few words, in the subsets of the following categories:
(These categories were derived from countless grant proposals over the past five years)
Category #1: Determine Your Outcomes:
-List Your Programs
-Resources Used by the Program (i.e. staff, budget, sites, accreditations/licenses)
-Activities Associated with the Program that make the Program Run
-Outputs (count your activities i.e. how many people enrolled, where enrolled, hours of operation, number of scholarships, etc.)
-Long-Term Outcomes-always client focused (i.e. students have an understanding about the importance of good nutrition)
Now that you have identified what resources you have, the elements of your programs and your outcome goals you are ready to put some measurement metrics into place.
Measurement Metrics: (Measure against your Long-Term Outcomes)
-Indicators-Information that shows if your outcome has been achieved (i.e. # of students who made healthier food choices at lunch)
-Where did you get the Data for your Indicators? (i.e. lunchtime questionnaire)
Benchmark Goal: What actual number or percentage do you wish to attain
(i.e. 90% of students make healthier choices at lunch)
Benchmark Source: Where did Benchmark goal come from? (i.e. internal survey)
Actual Benchmark: What was the Actual result of the Program (i.e. 80% of students chose a healthier lunch)
-Influencing Factors: What influenced the results (i.e. nutrition information was not placed prominently enough in the cafeteria or the cafeteria did not verbally offer the healthy option)
-How You Would Change the Program as a Result: (i.e. place nutrition cards on each lunch table or have nutrition information prominently displayed or discussed as lunch choices are being made)
-Net Outcome: this is a big one. It can be difficult to gather data for a net outcome. Can you prove the long-term effect of your program (i.e. two years later, 60% of the students were still making healthy choices). These should be listed with a data source
You can set these headings up on a spreadsheet and fill in the columns.
For donors, think about including a small chart with your long-term outcomes, benchmarks (goal and actual) and influencing factors in a thank you letter. If you are making changes to your program as a result of your data collection donors will be grateful for your transparency and inclusion in the process. Your donors will feel that their gifts were well stewarded and that they have made a sound investment. A well-informed donor is a happy, and a most important, a repeat donor.